Neighbors in Need

As the 111 million American viewers and near 70,000 football fans in Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium were preparing for the national entertainment liturgy of the Super Bowl, Pope Francis was making a solemn plea to the world's Christians. He reminded all disciples of the painful plight of our sisters and brothers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

With the global gathering of the Winter Olympics beginning tomorrow, our eyes and hearts focus on international harmony that is possible when people can look beyond borders to celebrate a shared humanity that recognizes the beauty of healthy competition and national pride, hard work, and disciplined physical development. The strong embrace of the pageantry of the games cannot distract us from the urgent needs of our neighbors throughout the world.

The two nations placed before us by the pope are among the neediest in the world. War, famine, ethnic rivalries, and inhumane violence has decimated families, communities, and churches, forcing millions to flee their country as refugees. The pope has dedicated Friday, February 23, as a day of prayer and fasting for peace for the innocent people in these countries. This day will be a Lenten day of abstinence, but the pope is asking us to stretch ourselves a bit more to deepen our commitment to prayer and fasting for those struggling just to stay alive.

What's more, the pope reminded all followers of Jesus of the call to bring peace, explaining that each person "can concretely say no to violence to the extent that it depends on him or herself. Because victories obtained with violence are false victories, while working for peace does good for all!" If there is violence in our words, actions, or political, social, or religious attitude we hold, we must end it. If we win an argument or come out on top of business deal because of ill-gotten means, peace has been lost.

It is not too early to mark our Lenten calendars to begin our preparations that may aid a people far from our zip codes, but near to our hearts and to the heart of our Savior who knows their suffering, as a victim himself of forced migration and unjust violence.